The first house I remember living in as a child was beside a home where two brothers lived. It was their family home and the two of them lived there all their lives. My sisters and I would visit next door when one of the men would sit on his front porch. I can remember going over to his porch and visiting even though we moved from that house when I was going into the first grade.
I know at one point the brothers had given my parents a couple of boxes of Christmas ornaments. They were beautiful ornaments, all mostly glass and hand painted. They were ornaments they had grown up with and some were as old at the early 1900’s. I loved those ornaments. They were different from the modern ones that we had bought as a family. Each year some would break and we would look at the shattered pieces on the floor, sweep them up and continue to decorate.
In a few years two boxes went to one box of these ornaments. I married and went on my own. On one of the visits back to visit our home town, my Dad was clearing out excess ‘stuff’. He had his hallway stacked with things from my childhood and as we were leaving, he said, ‘if you see anything you want, grab it now, because it will be gone.’ There were things I wished I would have grabbed, in hindsight, but, I did have sense enough to grab the box of the old ornaments.
Hubby looked at me like I was crazy in grabbing the box of ornaments, but as I talked about them on our way home miles away, he understood. We put the ornaments into a stronger box as we were preparing to move overseas at that time and I wanted them to survive the trip.
The ornaments travelled to Japan with us. They went to Maine and then onto California. They were mixed in with our ornaments and for years I was the one to hang them on the tree. They were fragile and most likely filled with lead paint and toxins I don’t even know about.
My first ornament I put on the tree each year was a special one. I had loved it since I was a child. It was a beautiful round peach ball. It was made of some material like paper mache. It was peach in color and was covered in glitter. My description doesn’t do it justice, it was just my favorite ornament. Over the years the glitter had faded and the peach paint had worn down to show the paper inside the ornament, but it was the ornament I cherished.
It was always the first I reached for and hung in an honored place in front of the tree. To me, the other ornaments, although pretty, never held a spot in my heart as this one did.
You may notice that I am using the past tense in talking about the ornament. When we were getting reading to set up our tree for the first time in South Carolina, I pulled out the decorations. The tree was up, the lights were on and I opened the boxes for the ornaments. A box was missing. I looked at hubby. He went to the garage. I went to the garage. An hour later we were still in the garage. We moved to another room to look for the box. We had moved in mid November, so that we were still unpacking while setting up a tree at the beginning of December was a bit crazy anyhow.
We looked for a very long time. We had lost our box of ornaments. We still have not found them. I keep hoping that somewhere in the dark recesses, there is a box, waiting to be opened with our ornaments in it. The ornaments from our children, our ornaments that were handmade. The little stocking that we got the year we were expecting the child we lost, and my beloved peach ornament.
Tears filled my eyes when I realized there were no ornaments for the tree. A small box of six ornaments were in with the decorations, but that was all.
Since that time, I have gotten some lovely ornaments. There is a hand painted one from my supper club party. There are some that I bought from the gift shop I worked in. I have a beautiful one from my youngest, and I have two crazy bright ones from my oldest, a neon colored moose and a hot air balloon, I have one from Ireland a neighbor bought for me while visiting there. I like the looks of my newer ornaments, they are lovely and I have memories of when I got each one.
I miss my old ornaments. They held memories of Christmases past. They were my heritage. Looking at the ornaments in the box (that is lost) I could remember visiting a porch of a long-lost neighbor, of hearing my sisters banter with each other, of seeing my Dad tell us a spot was bare and needed something. I could remember my daughters gently touching an old ornament and finding their favorites.
Christmas brings us memories. The good and the bad. Pieces of glass and plastic and paper return us to times that were maybe simpler, or hard or filled with anticipation. These memories make us who we were and who we have become.
As I sit writing and looking at my tree with these new baubles on it, I hope that this season will bring you memories that confirm your heritage. May your day be filled with joyous memories. DAF